GARRETTSVILLE, Ohio — Some would say she is a self-made woman.
Meet D.C. Campbell — a woman who has earned the right to call her horse training, rehabilitation and boarding business — her own.
Campbell owns an all-inclusive horse facility in Garrettsville, Ohio, on state Route 82.
Twenty years ago, it wasn’t that easy. She was just starting out in the horse business and she had to hide that she was a woman trying to do it all herself.
Campbell said she purposely put “D.C. Campbell” on her farm sign so people would not realize she was a woman from the start. That way they had to give her a chance.
Once you are around Campbell, however, you can see how her passion fulfills her and pushes her to succeed.
“Training and this farm gives me a sense of accomplishment that you can do it. You can make something better. You can help a horse,” Campbell said.
Campbell is single and has a 29-year-old son, Jesse, who is the reason she has pushed to build her business.
In 1989, Campbell was working as a pony girl on racetracks across Ohio when she decided she wanted to spend more time with her son and get him out of the racetrack life.
So with the help of her mom, a business was born: Pinebrook Farm.
“I can live here and not worry about the rest of the world falling apart,” Campbell said.
Using her skills gained from the track, she started training horses for the track. Campbell also boards horses and her farm is a place where horses can lay up while they rehabilitate from injuries.
One of the tools Campbell uses to rehabilitate a Thoroughbred recovering from the injury is a pond. Campbell said the swimming exercise gets the oxygen flowing into their lungs and gets their cardiovascular system moving without stress on the horse’s legs.
It also cuts down on the training needed to get them back in shape when they return to the track.
She is currently rehabilitating Docalize, who had 21 bone fragments taken out of his knee during a surgery and is working to get back in to shape to return to the track
She makes the workout seem effortless for the horse. She takes him right from the stall, through a pasture and into the pond. There, he swims circles around a platform where she stands. The training usually doesn’t last over 10 minutes.
“Good boy. That’s a good boy,” she encourages Docalize as he swims his laps.
The water is 15 feet deep where the horses swim. Campbell said horses just beginning the treatment are sometimes fearful and take encouragement to participate. And it often takes two people to keep the horse swimming his laps.
Other times, tricks like blindfolding the equine are necessary so they don’t get scared of the water.
“But once they get the hang of it, then they go on their own,” Campbell said.
Sometimes horse owners use a combination of the water therapy and land training once the horse is ready, but before it returns to the track.
Campbell’s life with horses began as a young girl. She said she used to ride with a friend from school and it got in her blood.
“Ride, ride, ride. I just loved it from the get-go,” Campbell said.
She added that she thought her life would be training Quarter Horses but it detoured into training Thoroughbreds. Campbell said she has been lucky in life to be allowed to follow her dream.
“When they go in the ring and run good, it makes you feel good,” Campbell said.
Her time on the racetrack is limited now due to back injuries, but she used to gallop between 10 and 12 horses a day when she worked there.
“The racetrack is a hard life,” Campbell said.
In the winter, Pinebrook Farms is home to 30 horses. About half have returned to the racetrack for the season. There are 15 horses currently boarded at the facility and five are in training, including two 2-year-olds and three other horses in swimming and jogging therapy.
The “babies” — the two 2-year-olds — are in constant training right now, with trail riding and galloping in the hay field.
“Training is the key,” she said. “It’s all about getting into their brain.”
She added she doesn’t force the horses to do activities but she doesn’t let them get away with anything either. She contends she tries to develop a relationship with the horse so they learn to trust the rider.
Campbell said since she is the person behind the farm, she is also the regular farm maintenance team for it.
“I do everything. You name it,” Campbell said.
Campbell also makes her own hay for her herd. She bales a 26-acre field, which keeps the equines in hay for the entire winter.
Campbell said she has thought about the future and what it may hold for her. And, like many people, she doesn’t know what that may entail. But she does know that horses will always be a part of her life and until she knows something different, everyone can find her on her farm.